Sappanwood is a species of flowering tree in the legume family, Fabaceae, that is native to tropical Asia. Common name in English includes Indian redwood.
Sappanwood is related to brazilwood, and was originally called "brezel wood" in Europe.
This plant has many uses. It has antibacterial and anticoagulant properties. It also produces a valuable reddish dye called brazilin, used for dyeing fabric as well as making red paints and inks. Slivers of heartwood are used for making herbal drinking water in various regions, such as Kerala, Karnataka and Central Java, where it is usually mixed with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. The heartwood also contains juglone(5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone), which has antimicrobial activity.
Sappan Wood is a small thorny tree, 6-9 m in height and 15-25 cm in trunk diameter with a few prickly branches. Leaves are double-compound, alternately arranged, 20-45 cm long, 10-20 cm broad, with 8-16 pairs of up to 20 cm long side-stalks. Side-stalks are prickles at the base and with 10-20 pairs of oblong, 10-20 mm x 6-10 mm long leaflets, very oblique at base, rounded to notched at the tip. Yellow flowers are borne panicles in leaf axils and at the end of branches. Flowers fragrant, 2-3 cm long, 5-merous. Stamens are waxy-white, filaments densely woolly at the base. Fruits are woody pods, compressed with a hard recurved short beak, with 3-4 seeds. The heartwood which is used in medicine is light yellow when freshly cut, but it quickly changes to red. The color diffuses out easily in hot water. In about 7-10 hours the extract becomes deep orange in color. Sappan-wood was a major trade good during the 17th century, when it was exported from Southeast Asian nations aboard red seal ships to Japan.
The wood is somewhat lighter in color than brazilwood and other related trees. Sappanwood was a major trade good during the 17th century, when it was exported from Southeast Asian nations (especially Thailand) aboard red seal ships to Japan.
A decoction of the wood is a powerful emmenagogue and, because of its tannic and gallic acids, is an astringent used in mild cases of dysentery and diarrhea. It is also given internally for certain skin aliments. The sappan is given as a tonic to women after confinement and to relieve vomiting of blood. It is one of the ingredients in a mixture prescribed for malaria. The dried heartwood is widely used in oriental medicine, particularly against inflammation. Seeds serve as a sedative.